He'd like the world to sing … in Cantonese
Former music boss Alex Chan says Canto-pop can move beyond Hong Kong and find millions of new fans around the mainland and the globe
For Canto-pop, there is no better time than the present if Hongkongers can look beyond the city, according to music industry veteran Alex Chan Siu-po.
"Right now is the best time for Canto-pop, but it's not going to be generated only in Hong Kong," says the former music boss who discovered Canto-pop stars like Faye Wong and rock band Beyond.
He says the needs of an estimated 300 million Cantonese-speaking people around the world, including those in the Guangdong area, have been largely ignored. "After getting one or two hit [Canto-pop] songs, artists started to think, 'Oh, the market for Mandarin songs is so much bigger'," Chan said.
And because of a seemingly lucrative market, he says that the over-emphasis on Mando-pop (sung in Mandarin) over the past decade contributed to the stagnation of Canto-pop. But the former president of Universal Music Hong Kong says this is wrong.
"Of course [the Mando-pop market] is so much bigger. But how can you fight with people in Taiwan or Beijing? They have their own [Mandarin-speaking] culture and their own music. Why do something you are not good at and forget about what you are good at? You are good at making Canto-pop," Chan said.
He is in talks with musicians and record companies in Guangzhou to forge a new alliance: "Forget Mandarin songs."
The idea mirrors a proposal from the local film industry. In 2004, Hong Kong filmmakers sought a "Guangdong special cultural region" to screen Hong Kong films in Cantonese, as they previously had to be dubbed into Putonghua before their mainland release. In 2005, Hong Kong films were allowed to be shown in Guangdong without dubbing.
In the 1970s, Chan was among the 13 hottest Commercial Radio DJs, collectively known as "Six Pairs and a Half". He used to run Cinepoly, a subsidiary of PolyGram (acquired by Universal Music in 1998) and Cinema City. During his days with Cinepoly, besides Wong and Beyond, he poached Leslie Cheung Kwok-wing from Capital Artists.
Now a Metro Broadcast host, Chan is hosting a stand-up comedy show for the first time this week. The overwhelming response led to an extra show on November 18. He hopes to tailor it to the older crowd. "It's not singing oldies for them. I wanted to do something new; telling jokes that are current yet related to their collective memories," he said.
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